Napier's Pacifica named New Zealand's restaurant of the year video

JASON DORDAY/Stuff.co.nz

Cuisine New Zealand Good Food Awards 2017 at Auckland Museum.

A Napier restaurant has knocked over the heavyweights of the Auckland dining scene to claim the supreme honour at this year's Cuisine Good Food Awards.

Pacifica, which has been hailed as one of the emerging stars of the country's dining scene for several years, was named the Restaurant  of the Year at the awards ceremony in Auckland on Monday night.

The restaurant and its chef, Jeremy Rameka, were praised by judges for developing a genuine New Zealand cuisine, drawing on fresh and uniquely local ingredients, served in an unpretentious but expertly judged setting. 

Jeremy Rameka and Natalie Bulman of Napier's Pacifica restaurant receive their Restaurant of the Year prize at the 2017 ...
Oliver Li

Jeremy Rameka and Natalie Bulman of Napier's Pacifica restaurant receive their Restaurant of the Year prize at the 2017 Cuisine Good Food Awards.

The gala ceremony was one of the biggest nights of the year for the hospitality industry, with the Cuisine awards and their associated "hat" rankings now firmly established as the country's leading national restaurant competition.  

Other stand-out results included Auckland restaurant Apero taking the coveted best metropolitan restaurant title; Wellington's venerable Logan Brown climbing back up the rankings to emerge as the capital's highest-rated restaurant; and the acclaimed Roots restaurant in Lyttelton once again being the only establishment outside of Auckland to secure the maximum three-hat rating. 

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Chef Jeremy Rameka in the kitchen at Pacifica Restaurant, Napier.
Stuff

Chef Jeremy Rameka in the kitchen at Pacifica Restaurant, Napier.

 

In the regions, Waikato and Central Otago had strong showings, but perhaps the most remarkable showing was from Hawke's Bay which claimed four "hatted" restaurants - only two fewer than Canterbury - and three of the national category titles.

Top of the tree was Pacifica, which had been named the top regional restaurant in 2015 and 2016. It specialises in a determinedly Kiwi style of excellent but casual dining - or, as the Cuisine judges put it, "capturing the essence of Kiwi food, with finesse".

A distinctive blue bungalow on Napier's Marine Parade is home to the restaurant declared New Zealand's best by Cuisine ...
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A distinctive blue bungalow on Napier's Marine Parade is home to the restaurant declared New Zealand's best by Cuisine judges.

Run from a distinctive blue bungalow on Napier's Marine Parade by Rameka and his partner, Natalie Bulman (also the restaurant's maitre d' and sommelier), Pacifica took out top honours despite only achieving a two-hat rating from the award judges. Cuisine editor Kelli Brett explained that the judging criteria for the award involved more factors over a longer time than the assessments carried out to decide the hat rankings.

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To receive recognition from Cuisine meant a lot to the chef, who has won in past years. 

He said that his goal was "for New Zealand, for the food scene to come up".

Part of the dining area at the Restaurant the Year for 2017, Pacifica in Napier.
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Part of the dining area at the Restaurant the Year for 2017, Pacifica in Napier.

"It's about identity and it shows right around the country," he said.

"I'm Maori, I'm proud to be Maori, but it's not about that. It's our attitude, it's our approach to food.

"We don't need to copy anybody else, we don't need anybody else's permission and we break the rules and we do it smart."

Laura and Ed Verner of Auckland's Pasture restaurant, a stand-out newcomer to the industry.
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Laura and Ed Verner of Auckland's Pasture restaurant, a stand-out newcomer to the industry.

The judges said in their final report on Pacifica: "The question 'what is Kiwi cuisine?' is often asked, and the answer could well lie in the offerings of chef Jeremy Rameka at Pacifica.

"A delicate and restrained touch in the kitchen results in beautifully presented flavours, and an opportunity to truly taste the ingredients that Rameka has front of mind."

While its degustation (or tasting) menu changed from night to night, examples of dishes included kumara and mozzarella tortellini in a Bostock chicken broth; ling and smoked warehou in a shiitake and soy broth; and Hohepa honey and lemon vanilla pastry cream.

Alex Davies of Christchurch restaurant Gatherings, a notable newcomer to this year's Cuisine Good Food Award winners.
DEAN KOZANIC/STUFF

Alex Davies of Christchurch restaurant Gatherings, a notable newcomer to this year's Cuisine Good Food Award winners.

The main awards of the evening highlighted a subtle but telling shift away from Auckland, traditionally the centre of restaurant excellence. The city claimed seven of the eight three-hat ratings, including the only newcomer to that group in Clooney. And an acclaimed new arrival on the Auckland scene, Pasture, took out both the Chef of the Year award (Ed Verner) and the Best Drinks List prize.

But while last year Auckland restaurants took seven of the 12 category titles (including Restaurant of the Year, which went then to The French Cafe), this year just five of 13 categories went to the city.

The awards also included a new section to recognise a "food legend", which was presented to Moeraki restaurateur Fleur Sullivan.

Fleur Sullivan of the Moeraki restaurant Fleur's Place, on stage at the Cuisine Good Food Awards with Cuisine editor ...
Oliver Li

Fleur Sullivan of the Moeraki restaurant Fleur's Place, on stage at the Cuisine Good Food Awards with Cuisine editor Kelli Brett, after being named the magazine's "food legend" for 2017.

Leslie Hottiaux and Mo Koski of Auckland restaurant Apero, the best metropolitan restaurant in this year's Cuisine Good ...
Stuff

Leslie Hottiaux and Mo Koski of Auckland restaurant Apero, the best metropolitan restaurant in this year's Cuisine Good Food Awards.

Marlborough's Liz Buttimore, pictured with her Arbour co-owner Bradley Hornby, was named restaurant personality of the year.
STUFF

Marlborough's Liz Buttimore, pictured with her Arbour co-owner Bradley Hornby, was named restaurant personality of the year.

 - Stuff

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